Digital camera manufacturers make it seem as though capturing major photographic milestones is a snap. However, there's more to taking awe-inspiring images than simply pointing and shooting. Just ask Certified Professional Photographer Tracy Van Zeeland, owner of Wisconsin's M.C. Kinney Photography. LoveToKnow editor Michele Wanke had a chance to discuss some of the many misconceptions associated with professional photography with this Master Photographer in this exclusive LoveToKnow interview.
Professional Photography Tips
LovetoKnow (LTK): As an award-wining photographer who has been in business for nearly 20 years, can you explain why full-time professional photographers are taking such a hit these days?
Tracy Van Zeeland (TV): The first reason is the introduction of affordable digital cameras with instant review on the back. This has created a wave of amateur photographers thinking they can make a quick buck. Camera manufacturers claim that their cameras can practically take the pictures by themselves, completely ignoring the artistic and creative nature of the individual behind the camera.
The second major factor is the economy. Photography is still a luxury to most people and when times are difficult, the general public doesn't look at the long term value of professional photography. Sadly, they can't go back later to get newborn or graduation portraits. The bottom line is, the pie isn't any larger, but there are more people trying to eat from it.
LTK: What are some misconceptions associated with professional photography?
TV: I think two of the biggest misconceptions are cost and the time. Digital photography is more expensive than film ever was. Even though we no longer have the constant expense of film and developing, we have to pay for software upgrades, expensive cameras, online viewing expenses, post production and website expenses. In addition, the time required to manage digital files is about three to four times longer than film.
Another misconception is how easy it looks to the general public. When I'm shooting, I'm engaging my clients in conversation, making jokes, and playing, but I'm also being creative, looking for the right light, composition and pose, while making certain that the technical aspects are correct. It's the full package, but my clients only see that I'm having fun. It's a custom product, but in today's mass produced world, the public expects to pay individual pros the same as department or discount store shooters, even though the quality and service are remarkably better.
The Importance of Professional Photos
LTK: Why is it so important for people to have professional photographs taken?
TV: Professional photographs are not only valuable when they're taken, but they retain and gain value over time. Your children and grandchildren will appreciate the time you took to record these amazing memories. Snapshots are nice, but creatively lit and posed images become family heirlooms.
Tips for Selecting a Professional Photographer
LTK: What should an individual look for when selecting a professional photographer to document special moments?
TV: Look at their entire body of work. So many times I see websites that show a few nice images of children or babies, only to realize it's the same baby over and over again, and it's usually the photographer's child. Look at the associations they belong to and awards they've won. Also, ask how long they have been in business. Anyone can say they're a pro, but does their work reflect their billing?
Another tip is to check to see it they have a brick and mortar studio or if they shoot exclusively on location? If they're shooting on location only, they're probably new to the industry. You should also see if they identify themselves in their advertising and on their website? If they're not willing to identify themselves online to potential new clients, you have to wonder what they're hiding.
Bottom line, do your homework and don't make your buying decision based on price. In the long run, the price won't matter. You won't like it more if you paid almost nothing for it. You'll love it because it's beautiful and makes you happy.
Advice from a Pro
LTK: Finally, what advice would you give to trained photographers looking to open their own studios?
TV: Take lots of sales and marketing classes. Your photography has to be solid, both technically and creatively, but in today's market, you also need to know how to run a business and sell your work. Run the numbers and be realistic about photography as a full time career. Take a good hard look at your location, demographics and your competition. Also, keep in mind that most photographers work for themselves, which means you will be responsible for securing your own insurance, healthcare and retirement plan.
A Special Thank You to Tracy Van Zeeland
LoveToKnow would like to thank Tracy Van Zeeland for providing great insider information about the world of professional photography, and the gorgeous photos featured in the interview that illustrate her talent behind the lens.